Consumer Reports Publishes
A Helmet Article
Summary: Consumer Reports tested bike helmets in 1999. See this page for more recent helmet articles they have published.
Consumer Reports has an article on bicycle helmets in their June, 1999 issue. The
appearance of their articles every other year is always a major event for consumers of
bicycle helmets. This one is timely, with current models and testing to
the new CPSC standard. It is well-written and concise. We
recommend that you get a copy and read it, since this review does not have the details you need.
The article has ratings for 12 adult helmets, 8 youth models and four for children. Eight
of the models are produced by Bell or Giro, a Bell subsidiary, reflecting Bell's large market
share and the general availability of their helmets everywhere in the US.
The Louis Garneau Globe was the only model to receive the highest rating for impact
protection. The Bell EVO-2 Pro and the Trek Vapor were ranked right along with it,
however, despite receiving a lower impact rating than the Globe, because the Bell's straps
were more effective in preventing rolloff and the Vapor had better ventilation. Ease of fit was
judged very good for both the Globe and Bell helmets, and good for the Trek. We like the
well-rounded profile of both the Globe and EVO-2 Pro helmets, and the bright yellow option for
the Globe is a real plus.
But we think the partial external shell of the EVO-2 Pro
is a fashion quirk that consumers should avoid. The Trek Vapor for $32 earned a rating
of Best Buy. It was one of the three best vented helmets. The youth models tested were
closely ranked, but among the toddler models, the Bell Half Pint Pro was recommended as a
In addition to the three leaders, the article rates models from GT, Schwinn, Giro, Specialized,
Pro Action, and PTI, concluding that all meet the CPSC standard for impact protection, and
thirteen exceeded that for a Very Good impact protection rating, which we consider good news.
Best vented ratings went to the Trek Vapor, Giro Helios and Giro Gila.
The article cites two helmets
with straps that stretched too much under testing to pass the CPSC standard: the GT Stinger for
adults and the PTI Kid Cats for toddlers. They recommend avoiding those two.
The article has ratings for the impact protection, strap, ventilation and fit of each helmet.
Due to the conciseness of this article we don't know exactly how they arrived at the impact
ratings, but if your helmet is not among those reviewed they recommend you look for a CPSC
sticker inside. The impact protection of the Globe evidently exceeds the CPSC standard by a
considerable amount, but without details on the testing we are not sure how much.
Consumer Reports has an in-house lab
to test bicycle helmets, so we have a high confidence level that the results are impartial.
They also did comparative wind-tunnel tests in their own facility for the ventilation ratings,
producing objective data on coolness that you will not find anywhere else. The strap tests for
rolloff resistance (how well the helmet will stay on your head when jerked from under the rim
at back or front) are described as the same used in the CPSC lab tests, which we consider
better than nothing but marginal in showing how well the helmet is likely to stay on your own
head because they use a hairless, fleshless magnesium headform. There is still no substitute
for putting the helmet on, adjusting the straps and finding out if it works for you. On the
other hand, the Consumer Reports ratings for fit are based on how easy it is to adjust the
straps and pads for a good fit, and are likely to be a reliable guide to how much fiddling it
will take to make a given model fit you well. None of the models tested got an excellent
rating for ease of fitting, but the EVO-2 Pro, the Bell Mischief Pro, the Globe and five
Giro models got very good ratings.
The article is available for a fee on the
Consumer Reports website. You can also read it
at your local library. It should be evident by now that we were impressed with it, and we urge
you to support the next one by buying this issue.
Here is a link to our reviews of other Consumer Reports articles. The one from 1997 spawned a buckle controversy that now seems inconsequential.
We have links to all the manufacturers' web pages.